The U.S. Homeland Security chief said Haitian citizens living in the U.S. under the temporary humanitarian program should prepare to return to the earthquake-ravaged island nation.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly traveled to Miami Wednesday evening after his five-hour visit to Haiti, where he discussed a number of issues with Haitian leaders.
Kelly talked about his trip to Port-Au-Prince during a joint press conference with Gov. Rick Scott at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. He said he talked to the recently inaugurated Haitian president about the TPS extension.
After meeting with Haitian leaders yesterday and doing several media interviews, the secretary's message is quite clear. "By definition TPS is temporary," said Kelly. "They should start thinking now about what will happen in the not too distant future."
Washington recently extended until January a temporary humanitarian program that has allowed tens of thousands of Haitians to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation since the 2010 quake. A final decision is expected later this year, but Kelly emphasized that Haitian immigrants should start getting their affairs in order.
"I think we need to work towards setting up the 58,000 Haitian citizens who are in this country, setting them up to return home, that is the point of the TPS program," Kelly said at Thursday's press conference.
He added that leaders in Haiti told him they would like to buy some time for the country to make more progress in rebuilding, but they told him they would welcome back their citizens.
U.S. officials say conditions in Haiti have significantly improved since the quake. But, advocates for Haitians say conditions have not improved nearly enough for Haitians to be deported."The blatant denial of concrete evidence that shows that Haiti is in no condition to reintegrate tens of thousands of Haitian nationals who have been living abroad for many years is infuriating," FAMN - Haitian Women of Miami said in a statement released Thursday. "Secretary Kelly did not spend a sufficient amount of time in Haiti to make a fair assessment of the country’s conditions."
Kelly agrees that the conditions in Haiti are rough and that the process of rebuilding the island nation is a "fragile recovery." However, he suggested the protected status will not last for long.
"It will end some day, just like all TPS should end," Kelly said.